2014 was my first time at CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival. It was a tangle of connecting faces to usernames, networking and, of course, finding and trying new beers. This year was certainly a different experience. The trade afternoon at GBBF affords you time to get your research and networking hat on but this year it seemed impossibly busy. Just as packed as when the doors opened to the public last year, the floor was crammed with -I can only assume- suppliers, distributors and publicans of all kinds throughout the afternoon. And I mean packed.
In the end myself and Amy (West End Tap represent!) grabbed a safe table with Jon “BrewDog bartender extraordinaire” Tucker and the venerable Roberto Ross. A happy little table-community of obnoxious sours and meat products. We put Roberto in charge of finding us some fabulous Belgian beer -because what else would you drink at the Great British Beer Festival- and settled down for the afternoon. Not so much opportunity to network (though I do remember what Jon’s face looks like now -blame a night out with Roberto and Jon several years ago for that- and the ever awesome Rowan popped over too) but obviously still a chance to explore the beers on offer.
The trade area itself was a different matter. A new section in a room off to the side was set up as a bundle of marketing, information and tech. I believe I walked past a talk on hops, a considerable amount of cellar equipment and some delicious ginger beer before stopping at the Snaffling Pig (previously Giggly Pig) stand. We’ve already had a couple of their products at work (BBQ and Salt & Vinegar scratchings) so it was fun to see a few new ones. Namely maple pork scratchings… MAPLE PORK SCRATCHINGS. The staff there were enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The same could be said for the other stands. This area was away from the rest of the hall and definitely had a more relaxed and productive air to it.
We got to briefly chat to the kind folks at Cowley’s Fine Food (purveyors of such delights -not sarcasm- as Whisky Worms, Suzie’s Vegan Jerky and the strange but delicious fruit leather. More on these tasty morsels in another post) about their products whilst we were out in the main hall but it’s not quite the same when you’re in the midst of everything.
Is it maybe time for a publican’s conference? A mix of beers, snacks, cellar tech, bar gadgets, breweriana, talks on hops, malts and the dreaded… social media? Or is that all a bit corporate?